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July 18, 2019
Caps Club Birds
by Michael Menser Dell, Editor-in-Chief
Pittsburgh’s previously dormant power play connected three times in the first 21:51 to build the early lead, getting goals from Alex Goligoski, Geno Malkin, and Miroslav Satan. Game over, right?
Not so fast, Honcho.
Led by Alexander Ovechkin’s ferocious hitting, the Capitals clawed their way back into the contest, taking full advantage of Pittsburgh’s sloppy defensive play.
Tomas Fleischmann got the Caps on the board at 5:45 of the second. Satan failed to get it out along the wall, and Kid Crosby wasn’t scared to blow the zone early, allowing the Caps to throw the puck back towards the cage. The biscuit struck Brooks Orpik and bounced right to a buck naked Fleischmann for the easy tap.
The third period was all Washington. Alexander Semin scored his fourth of the season at 3:38 to pull the Caps to within 3-2. Michael Nylander won a draw in the right circle to Semin, who stepped in and wired a laser rocket wrister on one leg past Marc-Andre Fleury before the Flower could even flinch. It was ridiculous. Semin has the hardest wrist shot in hockey. Ask your mom.
Washington went all Tic-Tac-Dough on the Penguins to knot the game, and they couldn’t have done it without Kid Crosby’s help. Sid circled inside the Washington stripe and attempted to force a spinning backhand pass down low to Pascal Dupuis. The pass got picked and sent the other way.
Crosby compounded his mistake by ignoring the middle of the ice and turning towards the boards on the backcheck, thereby gift-wrapping the Caps a three-on-two. Semin fired a cross-ice pass to Fleischmann on the left side, and then Fleischmann sent the pill across to Nylander for the finish.
Washington rode the momentum and pressed the attack to earn another odd-man break at the expense of Hal Gill. Eric Fehr blocked Gill’s shot at the left point and fought through the cement-footed blueliner, getting away with high-sticking him in the face. Gordon picked up the puck and busted in on right wing, using Ovechkin as a decoy, a very expensive decoy, before piping a shot high short-side over Fleury’s glove for the winner.
And when I say piped it, I mean piped it. Gordon ripped it off the back bar, and action continued for a few minutes until a whistle let replay confirm the goal. The Penguins didn’t muster a serious scoring chance the rest of the way, although Ovechkin certainly tried to help, icing the puck on an open net with 48 seconds to go. It’s a one-goal game, tough guy. Gain the line.
Obviously, this was a huge win for the Caps, who had been 0-7-0 lifetime against Fleury and something like 2-15-0 in their last 17 at the Igloo. Washington took the game over in the third, outshooting Pittsburgh 21-6. Hardly the way to protect a two-goal lead.
Ovechkin was only credited with three hits. I find that hard to believe. He was running dudes all night. And by dudes I mean Malkin. Ovechkin hates Malkin. That’s the real rivalry. Geno had the better statistical game, registering a goal, two assists, and nine shots. Ovechkin was pointless on five shots. But Ovie got the only two points that mattered.
While Ovechkin’s intensity inspired his team to victory, Kid Crosby was positively dreadful. Sure, he had two helpers, but he finished minus-3 and is still looking for his first goal of the season. And he was the guy making the costly defensive miscues. He’s gotta be better than that. This one’s on Sid.
The other day, I said the whole Sergei Fedorov on defense thing would never work. I was misinformed. Fedorov started the game at center but switched to defense in the second once the Caps were down 3-0. His skating and crisp outlet passing was critical to Washington’s resurgence. There’s no comeback without Fedorov on the blue line.
Still, I can’t see the ploy working for any extended period of time. A team with an actual “coach” and “forecheckers” would bring the pain to Fedorov’s corner all night.
And let’s hear it for Matt Bradley. He made the unfortunate decision to fight Paul Bissonnette, eating two vicious right hands for his trouble. The second one dropped Bradley like a bag of rocks and bloodied his nose. Yet he returned in the third and even logged key minutes at the end of the game to help preserve the win. Bradley, you’re the tops. You teach me new things every day.
One last thing. Watch the video of Gordon’s winner and tell me how Fedorov gets credit for an assist. This is why all assist totals should be taken with a grain of salt.
I had Koivu ranked No.2 on The Cool List, warning everyone he was about to go Superfly TNT on the league. Well, I think nine points in three games counts. Then again, eight of them are assists, so who knows?
On the bright side, the Bolts allowed 36 shots, their lowest total of the season. But in case you think Barry Melrose has only forgotten how to coach defense, he also has no clue how to use superstar rookies.
Steve Stamkos played only 9:22, bringing his four-game total to a whopping 38:45. To put that number in perspective, Adam freaking Hall has played 43:19. And Stamkos has played a mere 4:38 on the power play, which is less than guys like Mark Recchi (6:03), Jussi Jokinen (9:38), and Radim Vrbata (15:43).
I don’t know about you, but I don’t recall many “Seen Jokinen?” billboards over the summer. Let’s go, Mullet. Play the kid already!
Vancouver’s pesky winger stuck it to the filthy Red Wings last night, rifling home the OT winner to hand Detroit its second loss on home ice in two tries. Aw, that’s a shame. The Wings lost only nine home games all last season. Burrows, on the other hand, already has three goals, which is three more than Marian Hossa.
After the game, Hossa announced he’ll be leaving the Red Wings to join the Vancouver Canucks, citing his increased chances of winning a Stanley Cup. Tough luck, Wings fans.